Is There Any Hope Left For American Schools?

With the House passing a bill to limit the federal role in K-to-12 schooling and a unanimous Senate committee doing the same, it might look as if there is finally some progress in fixing the broken over-centralized national educational system.

The bill is the brainchild of education committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, who claims it would “ban the federal government from mandating any sort of education standards, Common Core or otherwise.” If it becomes law, “it would lessen federal control in the education system and help calm heated debates about Common Core standards. Rather than the Feds making the decisions, the bill would allow states to create their own accountability systems and determine how much standardized tests should account for student and faculty evaluations.”

Alexander predicts he has the votes to pass the whole Senate based upon the overwhelming support of his committee, ranging from Elizabeth Warren to Rand Paul. Sen. Patty Murray is the co-sponsor. Of course, that means things have been compromised quite a bit; but it is headway made against federal control. The fact that the progressive Center for American Progress fears that the bill will weaken national standards and allow states to change one-size-fits-all “maintenance of effort” funding standards suggests things are going in the right direction.

Of course, in federal education policy, nothing is that simple. Obama officials are resisting, and so are some conservative representatives who want to allow states to opt-out of federal education controls entirely without any financial penalty. House Education Committee Chairman John Kline says he supports the concept of the conservative amendment and allowed a vote on it, but it failed. The bill passed the House without a single Democrat—who objected to the loss of federal control—and was opposed by two dozen Republicans, who said the bill did not go far enough in limiting control. Kline hopes a conference with the Senate might eliminate the test mandates and work out the other details.

The House bill would make some major changes. While, like the Senate version, it would still require states to hold annual standardized tests in reading and math from third to eighth grades and once again in high school, and publish data on results, it would allow students to opt out of tests without loss of federal funds. It would largely allow states to spend federal money as they pleased and would not require them to meet federal benchmarks for success. States would still be required to intervene in local schools that need improvement, but the type and number of interventions would be up to the states. A new provision called “portability” would allow federal funds to “follow the child” if he or she transferred to a school not covered by current law.

Alexander’s response, in a The Hill newspaper interview, to conservatives who think the bill does not go far enough was, “If you leave No Child Left Behind like it is, you are leaving in place a national school board and a Common Core mandate. From a Republicans or conservative point of view, I would think you would want to move away from that.”

It will be a tough call for conservatives who have been at the forefront of the twin activities that have led to Congressional willingness to consider reform: the movements to limit the national education standards regime called Common Core, and the one in the states promoting charter schools, often at the urging of governors, now overwhelmingly Republican. While touted as originating in the states, Common Core sputtered until President Obama used his Race To The Top legislation to promise to moderate some No Child Left Behind Act burdens and to acquire new financial grants if states adopted Common Core standards. In 2010, Obama ordered that all federal education grants be conditioned on adopting the standards. Even with this pressure, bipartisan majorities in Congress and in many states have now soured on Common Core.

The other grassroots reform of offering charter alternatives to traditional public schooling has become almost mainstream. Today, a majority of students in the overwhelmingly Democratic District of Columbia have escaped failing public schools to enroll in charters. Even Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has supported raising the limit on the number of charter schools, which has been the main teacher association strategy to stifle the idea. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Democratic majority in the New York lower legislative body, and the teachers unions are the last holdouts against reform even in the Empire state. Even President Obama concedes American education is failing. There is a growing understanding that bureaucratization, union self-interest, and method-over-substance do not work.

One of the pioneers of entrepreneurial education and advocates for lifting governmental restrictions on innovation argues the movement must now go further. Bob Luddy, chairman and founder of a $300 million commercial kitchen ventilation company, CaptiveAire, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, created one of the state’s early charter schools, Franklin Academy, in 1998. He started with a handful of students in a single location. Franklin now has 1,650 students at five locations in two K-2 schools, two 3-8 schools, and a $9 million high school. With a 1,500 student waiting list, Franklin has perhaps the largest demand for admission in the country. After making his own charter school a success, Luddy was instrumental in increasing North Carolina’s numerical limit on charters to make similar opportunities available for other parents and their children.

Although less regulated than traditional public schooling, charters are subject to pressure from well-funded education lobbyists interested in limiting charter competition to their union-dominated public school clients. Unfortunately, they have been more successful than not. Frustrated by such charter restrictions, Luddy concluded that true reform must free itself from state bureaucratization. With the knowledge garnered by previously founding a religious private high school called St. Thomas More Academy with 180 students, he launched a classical curriculum private school he called Thales Academy, named for the Greek philosopher. Today Thales Academy boasts 1,700 students and 150 faculty in three K-5 locations and two 6-12 locations in the greater Raleigh area, with an average growth rate of 15 percent per year.

Luddy’s educational philosophy parallels that of his business: keep overhead low and deliver quality to customers. Administrators are few and sports are de-emphasized. As Luddy told the American Spectator, “A lot of people say you shouldn’t talk of education as a business, but the reality is, it is a business.” The weakest elements he sees in current education are rules that limit innovation, weak curricula, and high costs. Private education is the answer to the first, rigorous classical education to the second, and business acumen to the third. Luddy provided all three.

Thales’ test scores are higher than even charter schools. Where the average building cost for a new public school nears $100 million, Thales delivered it for $10 million. Student tuition is $5,300 per year for kindergarten through fifth grade and $6,000 for sixth through 12th grades at Thales, compared to $11,000 for the average local private school and $9,000 (in per pupil cost) for public schooling. Now Luddy wants to take his idea national. “My idea was that parents should have hundreds of choices, whereas currently if they go to the public school system, they have one maybe two. They have precious few choices. Once you open up competition, the choices will be abundant.”

It is a long road from Alexander’s first steps away from centralized administration, content-less curriculum and vanilla character training, and expensive and politicized teacher-oriented rather than student-focused education today to Luddy’s ideal of thousands of private schools offering choice by actually educating America’s youth. But, at last, there is some sense of hope.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

This Small Child Lost His Father And Home, But One Picture Shows His Unrelenting Perseverance

Image Credit: Facebook/Joyce Gilos Torrefranca

A picture of 9-year-old Daniel Cabrera has gone viral. The boy was pictured completing his homework under the light of a local fast food parking lot in Cebu City in the Philippines, while sitting on his legs and using a small wooden bench as a desk. This has become his regular study location, as the third grader’s home has no electricity.

Medical student Joyce Torrefranca saw Cabrera and stopped to take the photo of him. Per Metro UK:

“As a student, it gave me an inspiration to work harder. I’m fortunate my parents were able to send me to school,” she said. “This kid just hit me.”

The young boy, who attends Subangdaku Elementary School in Mandaue City had no studybook, and held up his only pencil. When asked why he keeps a rosary in his bag, he answered: “So that no one will steal my pencil.”

“I think I want to be a policeman,” he said. “I also want to be a doctor.”

Upon hearing Cabrera’s desire to become a cop, local police officers decided to lend help, and made a promise to collect donations for him.

His mother, Maria Christina Espinosa, is especially proud of her son after learning that he is now famous on Facebook. She works and stays at a nearby eatery with Daniel and his younger brother, Gabriel, to provide for her family.

h/t: Rappler

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

PC Madness: Liberals Want This State’s Flag Taken Down For One Totally Absurd Reason

In the midst of a nationwide debate regarding the propriety of displaying the Confederate flag, other prominent banners have faced similar criticism. As Western Journalism reported, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told a congregation last month to rebuke the American flag, suggesting blacks are “fighting” against those who carry it.

For one Minneapolis Star Tribune writer, her state’s flag should be the next to receive a public denouncement.

“The images on the flag rare interpreted by state documents as innocuous symbols of the state’s history,” Judith Harrington admitted in the first paragraph of her recent commentary.

Harrington, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, went on to share her opinion that the true meaning of the flag – which she points out “depicts a white man as a hardworking, rugged, individualist, and an Indian riding a horse and holding a spear” – is rooted in racism.

Capture

“A close examination shows the central figure to be a white pioneer dressed in work clothes, wearing a wide-brim hat and pushing a plow,” she wrote, later describing as “interesting” the way this figure seems to interact with the Native American pictured in the background.

“The image of the pioneer,” she suggested, “a peaceful man who has laid down his gun and is plowing his field, is juxtaposed with the image of the Indian, who may still want to fight (his spear is at the ready) but who seems to be riding away.”

The white man can then be interpreted as driving out the native man, she insisted.

In the end, Harrington opined that it is “time that the state flag is revised, perhaps through a statewide design contest.”

h/t: Gateway Pundit

Is the image on Minnesota’s state flag racist? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Watch: Angry Parents Stand Up To School Board Over Lessons On ‘Gay Marriage'; Room Erupts

The school board in Fairfax County, Va., overwhelmingly passed a measure last week concerning the district’s sexual education curriculum.

WTTG reported last Thursday that the board voted 10-2 to keep part of the Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum for K-10 students. This means students could learn about gender identity and sexual orientation in the seventh grade. Only members Patricia S. Reed and Elizabeth Schultz voted no.

According to an FLE Fact Sheet, parents will have the opportunity to opt their children out.

“Parents, do you want your children in Kindergarten to hear about same-sex marriage under the guise of families?” Andrea Lafferty, a Fairfax County parent and president of the Traditional Values Coalition, asked parents during the public comment portion of the meeting, according to CNS News. “No!” they shouted.

“Parents, do you want your children in fifth grade to hear about Gonorrhea and Syphilis? No! We want opt outs and we want to keep them safe,” she continued. “Do you want gender identity to be introduced to seventh grade? No! We want opt outs to remain.”

WTTG, coming out of the meeting, found some very divided opinions on the matter. “It’s certainly a step in the right direction of respecting more students and understanding the perspective of other students who have different gender identities or different sexual orientations,” said David Aponte. “The fact is not whether you opt out of the curriculum full of lies, it’s that you shouldn’t be using taxpayer money to develop a curriculum of lies in the first place,” said Kathy Healy.

The Washington, D.C., Fox affiliate caught up with Schultz, one of the board members who voted “no” after the meeting. “I am very concerned that we’re watching a legacy of an environment that is setting this board at odds with parents,” Schultz said.

Certainly policymaking done on the fly without consideration of the people on whom the policy has the greatest level of impact –and to do so without a great degree of care and to make sure that we’re representing the people who have elected us to be here — can only yield bad policy.

“Now our time is going to be distracted and taken away from the real work of the board,” Schultz added. “We should be worried about educating 186,000 students and not about all of this peripheral political stuff.”

h/t: The Blaze

Are you concerned with what’s being taught in our schools? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

White College Professor Just Said All Whites Should Do THIS Because of Slavery

An Illinois college professor suggested on Twitter last month that because white persons owned slaves over a century ago, white persons today “are complicit in it.”

Adam Kotsko, a professor of humanities at Shimer College in Chicago, tweeted out the following on June 25: “Whether or not your individual ancestors owned slaves, you as a white person have benefited from slavery and are complicit it it. Sorry.” One person responded, “What follows from this?” to which Kotsko answered: “We should commit mass suicide.”

Twitter/Young Cons

Twitter/Young Cons

Twitter/Young Cons

Twitter/Young Cons

Kotsko, whose Twitter account remains active but restricted to confirmed followers, received some blowback for his “mass suicide” comment.

h/t: Young Cons

Is Dr. Kotsko out of his mind or speaking ironically? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth